“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

― Suzy Kassem

Last week was a pretty big week for me. I released my first-ever product that actually costs money: The Hacking Japanese Supercourse.

I had pretty low expectations for selling something on the internet.  I guess because I’d never done it before.

These were my sales goals:
(1) Make at least 1 sale.
The end.

Well, to my relief, I made more than one sale. Compared to my initial sales goals, one might even say that I made a lot of sales. Yay! But most importantly, I have been getting emails from readers all week thanking me for the book.

それはこっちのセリフだよ / That’s MY line.

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For those of you that don’t know, I am currently working as a freelance Japanese-to-English translator and writer for some Japanese publishing companies.

All of that work actually comes from a very hard-working editor that I just happened to meet by chance back when I was living in Tokyo. We just finished another project yesterday, and I sent him this in an email:

That’s exciting that the books are going to be printed so soon. I’m looking forward to seeing what they look like. I really enjoy doing this type of work, so I feel really lucky to have met you.

– Me

My editor then emailed me back with the following (by the way, I always email him in English, and he always emails me in Japanese, because we’ve found that we can work a lot faster that way):

それはこっちのセリフだよ
語学オタクと語学編集者が偶然会ったんだから、お互いluckyと言うほかないね。

sore wa kocchi no serifu da yo
gogaku otaku to gogaku henshuusha ga guuzen attandakara, otagai lucky to iu hoka nai ne.

That’s MY line.
For a language nerd (like you) to randomly meet a language book editor (like me), there’s no denying that we’re both lucky.

– My Editor

First of all, he called me a language nerd (語学オタク / gogaku otaku). I’m not sure if that’s an insult or a compliment. I think I referred to myself as one at some point.

Second, the phrase I wanted to point out is それはこっちのセリフだよ (sore wa kocchi no serifu da yo).

セリフ (Kanji: 台詞 / serifu) are “lines,” such as the lines that you give as an actor in a play. So the literal translation of this phrase is actually: “That’s my line.” And it’s a very common way to tell someone “You shouldn’t be saying that. That’s how I feel!” in Japanese.

It’s kind of similar to saying こちらこそ (kochira koso) when someone thanks you for something. Only, こちらこそ is more formal and sounds like, “No, thank you.” Whereas それはこっちのセリフだよ is a bit stronger and sounds like, “No, I should be the one thanking you!” And it’s exactly what I want to say to every single person who has emailed me saying thank you from the day I started NihongoShark.com up until now.

To all of you awesome readers who have emailed me saying “Thank you:” それはこっちのセリフだよ!

Thank you. Seriously.

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Haha, this photo is ridiculous.

 

In my posts and books and all of that good stuff, I talk quite a bit about how I’ve quit studying Japanese time and time again.

Sometimes it just seemed that this elusive level called “fluency” was beyond me, and my lack of confidence caused me to stop studying and neglect this language that I truly am fascinated by.

What I don’t mention very often is that I still have this problem of quitting things, because I don’t actually believe that I’m capable of doing them. In fact, I have quit and restarted NihongoShark.com more times than I can count.

This week, though, after finally managing to stick with it for a relatively consistent period of time, two things happened:

  1. I was able to create something that I am really proud of.
  2. I got a much better understanding of why I quit things in the first place.

Choosing to Fail: Sabotaging Myself with Self-Limiting Doubts

Me (in Thailand) a few months ago, working on the book.

Me (in Thailand) a few months ago, working on the book.

It took me a long time to write the Hacking Japanese Supercourse. Not counting the thousands of hours that I spent in order to become able to write such a text, the actual assembly of it took hundreds of hours. And during those hundreds of hours of writing, I almost quit about a thousand times, because there was a voice in my head telling me that I was going to fail. 

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Evil Gremlin Voice (for me while writing the Hacking Japanese Supercourse):

  • “Why are you even trying to write this? Nobody’s going to buy it.”
  • “Even if someone does buy it, they’re going to email you five minutes later telling you that it sucks.”
  • “This content’s not actually going to help anyone. It’s a waste of your time even trying to write it.”

Looking at this now, I realize that I’ve met this little gremlin before, back when I was trying to learn Japanese.

Evil Gremlin Voice (for me while I was trying to learn Japanese):

  • “You’ll never learn Japanese. Why are you wasting your time studying it?”
  • “Even if you keep studying forever, you’ll never be good enough at Japanese to get a translation job or work at a Japanese company.”
  • “All of your friends are learning Japanese faster than you. You suck at learning languages.”
  • “Look at how good that person is at Japanese. You’ll never catch up to them. You should just quit already.”

It’s so hard not to listen to that Evil Gremlin Voice. It lives inside of all of us, and it knows all of our weak points. It knows when we’re most vulnerable to quitting, and it knows exactly what to say in order to make us doubt ourselves, lose confidence, and ultimately choose to fail.

Somehow, though, I did manage to learn Japanese, and it helped me to realize that this Evil Gremlin Voice doesn’t know anything. Actually, I can silence this Evil Gremlin Voice (a little bit, at least) in other aspects of my life by using a various number of non-self-limiting mental constructs.

How to Deal with Self-Limiting Doubts

I don’t really know of any specific solution for completely eliminating the Evil Gremlin Voice, but here are a few tactics that have helped me tremendously.

1. Get a Support System

Every time that I have ever quit working on NihongoShark.com, the thing that brought me back was a Thank You Email from one of my readers. Every. Single. Time.

This is why I feel that I should be thanking every reader who emails me saying thank you. You are 100% the reason that this book and website even exist.

Thank you so much. I can’t say it enough.

2. Name the Gremlin

My Evil Gremlin Voice is named Jacqueline (sorry to any readers out there named Jacqueline, by the way).

There’s a very specific reason that I’ve named it this: Jacqueline is the name of a woman who did some truly conniving, evil things in order to hurt my parents.

In short, it’s the name of a woman who made my mom cry, which we all know is an unforgivable sin.

I don’t like the word “hate,” but let’s just say that I don’t want to go anywhere near this human being, and I certainly don’t want to listen to anything that she has to say. As a result, if she is my gremlin, then I am not going to listen to her. In fact, I’m going to do the polar opposite of just about anything she says.

3. Visualize What You Will Do In Response to the Failure

I have found that this is extremely helpful. Usually “doubts,” “fears,” and all that other gremlin-voice stuff is vague and dark. I suppose because we don’t want to think about it.

But visualizing the feared failure in detail gives us an opportunity to develop an action plan should it occur.

As an example, I’ll give a list of the Failure Response Plan I used when writing the Hacking Japanese Supercourse.

  • Gremlin Voice: “No one is going to buy your book.”
  • Response Plan: If no one buys it, then I will make it better and better until people do start buying it. At the very worst, I could make it free, and at least I will have helped a lot of people to learn Japanese.

 

  • Gremlin Voice: “People won’t think this is worth the money.”
  • Response Plan: Then I’ll offer a 100% money-back guarantee and send immediate refunds to anyone who isn’t satisfied.

 

  • Gremlin Voice: “This content’s not going to help anyone.”
  • Response Plan: Then I’ll give everyone free lifetime updates, and I’ll keep improving this content more and more until they believe that it’s worth way more than they paid for it.

 

  • Gremlin Voice: “This book is going to be a failure. You’re a failure!”
  • Response Plan: If this book is a failure, then I will learn from the failure. At the very least, I will have put my heart into creating something that I truly cared about. All I really need to do is help at least one person to learn Japanese. If I can do that, then this will all have been worth it.

Visualizing failures and then creating response plans for each of them is a great way to avoid choosing to fail. After all…

Quitting is not failing. Quitting is choosing to fail.

Failing is a good thing. It’s just like making mistakes in Japanese. But nothing good comes from choosing to fail. It just fuels the Evil Gremlin, making it even more powerful for the next time I doubt my ability to accomplish something I truly care about.

Keep Swimming

I hope that this article can help some of you to stay motivated when you lose confidence, especially if/when you doubt your ability to master Japanese. At such times, please don’t hesitate to email me.

You got this, yo. No problem.

Just keep swimming,

Niko

p.s. For any of you that are interested in making my day, the Hacking Japanese Course is here.

p.p.s. All the cool kids are signing up for this course, yo…

Niko

Yo! I'm Niko, the founder of NihongoShark. I'm also a Japanese translator, writer, and all-around language nerd.

I created this site to help as many people master Japanese (any language, really) as possible.

Uh, what else? Well... I live in Tokyo, Bangkok, Sapporo, Saigon, San Diego, Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Portland, Oregon! So if anyone wants to meet up for a refreshing nama beer, I'm probably down for that. Or a coffee. Learning Japanese is tricky-tikki-tavi. But we're in this together. ファイト!

Good luck with your studies!

Niko

p.s. If you like my articles, you may very well love my daily lessons.